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JavnaGolina

Did RJ go through substance addiction?

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Alot of his stuff when describing the one power makes me think he did. It makes colours brighter, you can hear more, everything seems more real. You feel alive when taking it and don't want to go back to the normal world. Everyone is very reluctant to let it go once they've seized it and have to restrain themselves from doing it too often. If you seize too much of it you die. And finally, once you've been cut off from it forever many people end up despondonent and killing themselves.

Guy served two tours in vietnam, I'm sure he's gone through a lot. Sorry if this has been discussed a million times before, I'm a noob :)

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I have never heard anything about RJ having ever gone through substance abuse, like you said he went for two tours in Vietnam, it could be, but there is no indication that he did. Now you could say that channeling can be a metaphor for drugs, but on the other hand it is not uncommon for magick to be addictive and this is a part of the cost of magick in many settings, that the magick user will become more and more dependent on magick, that it is not something they can just quit. The part about it making the world seam clearer and so on to is not uncommon for fictional magic systems of the energy model, just look at Star Wars where using the Force expands the mind and consciousness, this is not a unique thing about the channeling system in WoT.

 

Now even if the channeling system was meant as a metaphor for drugs, and I do not think it was, I think it was made that was to be dangerous as well as useful and to make it believable why being a male channeler is such a horror since if the men could just stop channeling at will then well, they could just shrug and say okey I can channel that is freaky and not use it, however instead they are in a damned if you do, damned if you don't kind of situation. If they channel, they go mad and die, if they try to stop themselves from channeling they will fail as it is that addictive and if they get gentled they will die from the loss, there is no way out, so I think the addictive elements are made for the sake of the story and not to be a metaphor for drugs, but even if it was, that do not mean the author have had a problem with drugs himself. Take another series, the Dune series. Spice is clearly a metaphor for drugs, hell it is a drug, and it also expand consciousness, give supernatural abilities and grant the user a longer life, but at a point if you stop taking it, you die. Now the author who wrote Dune, Frank Herbert did not have a problem with substance abuse as far as I know. A author do not have to have personal experience with a topic to write about it in a book.

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Channeling rather seems based on many of the symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia.  RJ's world is one where schizophrenic aren't insane, they remain fully functional because their delusions about a cosmic system controlling everyone are actually real, and everyone goes along with their conception of the world.  In an Age without channeling, sparkers do sense "something" but can't touch  the TS and their perception of the universe is considered delusional/a mental illness. Latent channelers probably are totally unaffected, never developping schizophrenia, but the sparkers go mad, commit suicide or end up as mental patients (and sadly, in the streets as homeless people).  

 

The ages at which women/men respectively spark, the percentage of those affected, the percentage of those who don't make it past the early stages of the disease if untreated (they commit suicide) etc. all pretty much match the stats for this type of schizophrenia. Another clue:  Forkroot is based off mandragora, from a family of plants that would very temporarily dampen the delusional symptoms. Quite a few of the character traits assigned to AS (temperamental, prone to arguing etc.) are also based off symptoms, or even talents, like the impression to alter reality, or the tendencies to make obscure "prophecies".. The heightened perception of reality (colours, sounds etc.) is also a symptom.

 

In RJ's world, channelers don't go mad or hear voices, that's reserved for the male channelers affected by the taint, who get a whole array of aggravating symptoms more typical of real schizophrenia and related disorders... voices, multiple personalities, paranoid delusions, down to crippling insanity etc.

 

Rand himself (that aspect of Rand, not the inspiration for the whole character, derived for far more sources than this, from RJ's life to mythology) was likely based on "patient zero" for this type of schizophrenia involving delusions about the "Cosmic Machine" (giant computers, aliens are modern variants, pre-modern ones were more colourful), a J.T. Matthews, a man from the early 1800s who believed he was invested with a mission from God to deliver the world from a monster threatening to make civilization fall into chaos (Napoleon...). His delusion centered on a gang of villains (many of which evoke the Forsaken... a woman who is also a man, a vamp who is evil but also a prisoner of the Gang's leader, a professor, a very jealous guy etc.) working for Napoleon and the revolutionaries and attempting to stop him/driving him mad, and who he believed were operating a cosmic machine he called an "Air Loom". That machine controlled people through invisible atmospheric "fluids", was able to compel them to act against their will, or kill people etc.  One of the WOT characters seems named after the doctor who treated him, Dr. Hasslam.  The guy ended up in Bedlam, after making a big scene in the British parliament, accusing politicians of being under the compulsion of the "Air Loom Gang". His doctor, widely held as the "discoverer" of schizophrenia, documented his delusions etc. in a famous book (that got re edited in the decades during which RJ planned WOT)

 

The various groups of channelers (and other talents) also evoke various historical, ancient to early modern, facets of madness. The WT evokes Bedlam (and more specifically, the weird plan to build a new, all white palace like utopian Bedlam designed by J.T. Matthews..), with its warders keeping an eye on their Aes Sedai. The Wise Ones (and Wolfbrothers, and Min's talent) and their dreamwalking evoke the Shamans of primitive cultures (where the insane who saw the world differently, could walk dreams, talk to animals and talk to the dead) were considered blessed and given such ritual functions... but are now widely believed to have been mentally ill, by modern standards. The Sea Folk and their history during the Breaking are derived from the Ships of Fools of the middle-ages, where the insane were put to sea.  The Kin/Knitting Circle are based on early, more humane ventures of the Quakers, who took patients put out of the fairly horrific Victorian asylums and brought them to live in community on farms, where they organized them into sewing/knitting circles for the women (the Kin), and to farming for the men (the origins of the BT).  The a'dam seems based on an horrific device used in Victorian asylums, a metallic collar with a pole, to control patients deemed dangerous. The practice got leaked in newspapers and it made a huge scandal in the good society (leading eventually to big reforms, and more modern methods of dealing with mental diseases).  

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^ That seems like a pretty big stretch to me.

 

 

Shamans of primitive cultures (where the insane who saw the world differently, could walk dreams, talk to animals and talk to the dead) were considered blessed and given such ritual functions... but are now widely believed to have been mentally ill, by modern standards.

 

 

do you have any sources for this? I've never seen any suggestion that shamanism was a result of mental illness. I always understood it as a primitive method of understanding and relating to the natural world without science.

 

 

Anyway, I never felt that channeling was intended as a metaphor for drugs, as Hagazussa said, the idea of addictive magic is a pretty common fantasy trope these days, although less so when RJ started writing. Obviously those ideas became connected somewhere in the genre, but I don't think RJ sat down and actively decided to compare the two. I think he just did what most people do, draw from classic/mythological sources, predecessors in the genre, and then put his own spin on it.

 

If you want to see a magic system which is a quite blatant drug metaphor, read Robin Hobb's Farseer/Tawny Man trilogy. Anyone who has any experience in that area can tell from her description of The Skill (as well as the various fictional drugs that exist in the setting) that Hobb had her own experience with or understanding of real world drugs in mind when she was writing.

Edited by Azrayne

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Some very interesting replies.

To be perfectly clear - I am not saying that the one power was a metaphor or allegory for substance addiction, just that there are striking similarities and the one power stuff may be partially based on experiences with drugs.

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Dom while the idea that insane individuals are those who see the world differently or in this cases mages in a world without magic is a interesting one, I think you description of schizophrenia is not so informed, I do not mean to be insulting but you seam to base your opinion on stereotypes rather than how schizophrenia actually works. Now first of all yes the belief that you can change the world with your mind might be a symptom of schizophrenia as some do get delusions of grandeur, but this is not the case in the Wheel of Time world as the channelers there CAN change the world with their minds. You might as well say Superman is a metaphor for mental illness as if someone in the real world thought they could fly and where immune to bullets then they would be completely and utterly bonkers, but in the fictional setting of Superman it is all true. Like others have said your theory is a bit of a stretch

 

The Wise Ones (and Wolfbrothers, and Min's talent) and their dreamwalking evoke the Shamans of primitive cultures (where the insane who saw the world differently, could walk dreams, talk to animals and talk to the dead) were considered blessed and given such ritual functions... but are now widely believed to have been mentally ill, by modern standards.

 

I can not describe in how many ways this is offensive. First of all NO shamans and other spiritual leaders of native people's are NOT considered insane by modern standards, they are considered religious practitioners and practicing a religion is not considered to be insanity. Please do check DSM and ICD the diagnostic manuals for mental illness, having a religious faith is not insanity. There are allot of cultures where people today practice as shamans and they are not insane, they have a religious world view. Your statement above would also cover every one of us who are Pagans, occultists or New Ages who believe in magick and that there is more to the world than what scientists can measure on a scale, and we are not insane. Now you can ague that we are wrong, but the diagnostic criteria for various forms of mental illness do not cover religious practice. I am a eclectic Pagan and a Ceremonial occultist. I believe in magick, I believe you can get prophetic visions in dreams and astral travel, I believe you can talk with the dead an animals and I believe that you can affect the world around you with magick. Now if you have another world view then me you can say I am wrong, that I can not prove my beliefs, but what my practicing magick is not is insanity. There are millions of people in the world who have a magical world view. Native Americans, Sames and a myriad of other cultures have shamans, in addition you have millions of Pagans, Occultists and so many others, and this is legitimate religious practice and not a sign of mental illness. To say that every shaman is mentally ill and everyone with a magickal world view is just plain offensive, that is the same as saying every Christian is insane or that every Atheist is immoral.

 

Now when that is said I do believe, and this is just based on my own religious world view, that those who have mental illnesses are more likely to be drawn to magick and be good at it as if you are a bit unhinged from the world and the normal rigid perceptions of reality then you are more likely to be able to practice metaphysical arts and be able to accept an alternative way to look at the world, that however do not mean that the religious view in themselves are insane however.

 

Now I do not think that the Wheel of Time Channeling system is a metaphor for anything, I think it is inspired by several real world Asian systems of energy manipulation, off course changed around and made a hell of allot more powerful but that the inspiration comes from there. Now we know RJ was fascinated by Hindu mythology and if you look at for example the practice of raising Kundalini you will find some rather striking similarities. In Yogic belief when you raise Kundalini you can activate your Crown Chakra which is located right above your head and this will create a connection between you and Lord Shiva, when this happen you can develop supernatural abilities and also feel extreme bliss and a heightened awareness of your surroundings. If Kundalini is raised without proper preparation and usually a teacher you might develop Kundalini syndrome which can involve getting fevers, periods of mania or depression, unexplained illness and even death, the list of possible symptoms is quite long, this is also likely to happen if you spontaneously awaken your Kundalini which can happen. Now granted my short explanation here do not do Kundalini work justice as it is a complex area but if you are interested it is easy to find more information about it by google. Now one of the things that strikes me when reading WoT books was how much the description how how a channeler feel when touching the source sounds like the bliss that comes with Kundalini awakening, and they even do call it a awakening a few times when it comes to a channeler begins to channel.

 

Now again I am not saying you should believe in Kundalini or any other religious ideas, but I do think that the Channeling system was in part inspired by this and other Asian systems like for example Reiki which is also very similar. My mother who is a Reiki healer and who normally do not read fantasy the first thing she said when she had a looks at the WoT books because I love them so much is this really sound like Reiki, amped up right but the basics it really sound like it and as I have later gotten into Reiki I have to agree. There is allot of Asian religions and mystical ideas that can be found in the WoT books and I think the inspiration comes from there and not from drugs.

Edited by Hagazussa

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Some very interesting replies.

 

To be perfectly clear - I am not saying that the one power was a metaphor or allegory for substance addiction, just that there are striking similarities and the one power stuff may be partially based on experiences with drugs.

 

 

It wouldn't surprise me at all to find out that he'd used drugs in the past, since he was in his late teens/early 20's at the height of the 60's counter culture and, like you said, went to Vietnam. His description of how someone feels while holding the OP does sound remarkably similar to the psychological effects of amphetamines.

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I don't know what's more scary... that people think the One Power is based on real life drug use, or that people think the One Power is based on real life people wielding magic in real life.

 

Wheel of Time is fiction. It's fantasy. Like most fantasy, it's made up by logical rational people who believe in science, but who can imagine a very different kind of world where magic would exist and follow a set of semi-scientific rules with both rewards and costs.

 

Hagazussa... I have a question or two. If you actually believe that your mum has magical powers, would you agree to letting her be tested in a rigorous scientific manner that could rule out random flukes and fraud, and provide proof that she does in fact have magical powers if she does? And would you consider applying for the Nobel Prize in Physics or Medicine? Don't you think that would be worth testing scientifically.

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I don't know what's more scary... that people think the One Power is based on real life drug use

 

How is that 'scary'? Magic = drugs is an extremely prevalent fantasy trope.

 

As for the other thing, is this really the right venue for a Dawkins v. Uri Geller pay per view?

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Substance experimentation may well have been on the cards.

Hearing about how it felt from  friends/ colleagues also very likely.

"Addiction" sounds a little unlikely given the man's high work-rate, his long stints of public appearances, his stable private life, etc.

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Allot of fiction is based on real life faith or a myth, or a thing in real life, that do not make it any less of fiction. Take Warhammer 40 000 allot of how the various orders withing the Empire there is based on the Catholic Church, that do not mean that it is any less fiction or that pointing the obvious similarities mean that you believe that there are Space Marines in the Vatican. Similarly allot of people argue that the novel Dracula is a rape fantasy created by an author using metaphors where the very conservative Victorian society he lived in would not have allowed him to be more direct. I am not sure I agree with this but I can see where the point is coming from and acknowledging that do not make Dracula any less of fiction nor do it mean you think rapists are vampires. Why is it scary to speculate on where an author might have gotten and idea for some elements in their fiction? Authors and storytellers in general do not live in a vacuum an usually ideas are inspired by something, and that do not mean that it is not fiction.

 

It is like when I say that there are clear Taoist elements in how the Star Wars mythology works, something George Lucas have  confirmed, that do not mean I think that if I practice Taoism I will be making a laser sword an fight aliens it means that I think the author have read about these things and gotten some ideas from it that he have based his fiction on. When I say there are elements of Asian energy concepts in Wheel of Time I do not mean that the books are not fiction, I am saying that I think that RJ who was known to be very interested in Hindu mythology have taken inspiration from these things when creating his system. How is that an scary idea? That an author might be inspired by real life events, myths and legends, is not that rather common?

 

Hagazussa... I have a question or two. If you actually believe that your mum has magical powers, would you agree to letting her be tested in a rigorous scientific manner that could rule out random flukes and fraud, and provide proof that she does in fact have magical powers if she does? And would you consider applying for the Nobel Prize in Physics or Medicine? Don't you think that would be worth testing scientifically.

 

I will make a short reply here not to derail the thread as really this is a thread about possible inspirations for elements in a fantasy series and not the place to discuss real life occultism and whatever or not it is real, and that really is totally irrelevant for the topic at hand. Now yes I believe in magick. Now I do not let my mother do this or that as she is an adult and decide for herself what she want to do. Now I have my faith, I have seen and experienced to much not to believe however I also know that for the most part in a sterile laboratory most occult methods have not worked so I see little point in doing so. I will not suddenly start believing that everything I have experienced since I was a child is wrong if some man in a white coat can not give it his stamp of approval, and I also have no need to convince anyone else of these things as it is a matter of personal faith. I do believe however that science currently do not have the right tools to prove or disprove the existence of the supernatural. Now if you want to discuss this further I would be happy to in either a PM or on a thread in the off topic forum, but I do not think we should derail the thread with a discussion of real life occultism, as it really is beside the point, what I am claiming is that RJ have been inspired by the Yogic practice of Kundalini awakening and the descriptions of it, that that said practice is real which out be another debate entirely.

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"There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamed

of in your philosophy" - William Shakespeare

 

I agree 100% Hagazussa, not everything can be proven, or seen before one can believe.

 

Much of the WoT has an Asian feel to it. Not just the channelling but also the Flame and the Void, the heron marked swords are similar to samuri blades, even the dragon is distinctively Asian. Its far more likely he researched his knowledge rather than had personal experience

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Jenn= Jain, the entire wheel and reincarnation is a concept borrowed from three Eastern religions.
The trolloc clans and gholam have Arabic names. 
But the Aiel are celts who use Zulu weapons and tactics.
Malkier= Nepal.

Finn= Faerie

Callandor= Excalibur
Fisher king= Arturian legend.

Perrin, Mat =Thor, Odin
He borrowed from all over, not just Asia. . 

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I agree RJ borrowed and took inspiration from many places not just Asian culture, I just commented I think it is more likely that the base ideas for the channeling system comes from Hindu and other Asian sources than that it was inspired by substance abuse on his part.

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Well he smoked.

 

And anybody who has tried to kick a nicotine addiction can tell you how LOVELY that process is.  :)

 

By the way, I think he stopped smoking eventually . . .

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Alot of his stuff when describing the one power makes me think he did. It makes colours brighter, you can hear more, everything seems more real. You feel alive when taking it and don't want to go back to the normal world. Everyone is very reluctant to let it go once they've seized it and have to restrain themselves from doing it too often. If you seize too much of it you die. And finally, once you've been cut off from it forever many people end up despondonent and killing themselves.

 

Guy served two tours in vietnam, I'm sure he's gone through a lot. Sorry if this has been discussed a million times before, I'm a noob :)

The us military even as far back as WW2 were giving methamphetamine to guys on guard duty and in Vietnam pilots and special teams grunts were being given speed or other uppers they called green hornets because the Colorado of the pills. RJ and others might have been given them and had been required to take them and it not have been in a recreational capacity. My grandfather was in Vietnam and was given things to keep him awake while with SOG/MAC-V teams in the Bush as a civilian (CIA

I later learner after finding his ID and passport.)

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But the Aiel are celts who use Zulu weapons and tactics.

 

Where do you get celts from? Other than the blue eyes and red hair.

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There social structure appears rather celtish, though I believe the celts weren't as rigid.

 

I've often wondered how cruel it was to place a fair-skinned, red haired group of people in a desert

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Where do you get celts from? Other than the blue eyes and red hair.

 

I can be remembering this wrong so do not shoot me if I do, but I think RJ said in an interview when asked about the appearance of the Aiel where he got the inspiration and that he said something like that he found it amusing to have a bunch of Irishmen in a desert. I can not seam to find the quote though so I may be remembering it wrong.

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I've often wondered how cruel it was to place a fair-skinned, red haired group of people in a desert

 

Well I don't have red hair, but speaking as an extremely pale guy living in Australia, the answer is 'very.'

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I doubt RJ ever went through substance addiction-we probably would have heard at least something about it otherwise.  However, I can report from personal experience that using Ritalin feels exactly like the description of holding saidin.  (No I'm not addicted either-it was medically prescribed and I quit without any difficulty when it proved to be less useful than the doctor had hoped). 

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Where do you get celts from? Other than the blue eyes and red hair.

 

I can be remembering this wrong so do not shoot me if I do, but I think RJ said in an interview when asked about the appearance of the Aiel where he got the inspiration and that he said something like that he found it amusing to have a bunch of Irishmen in a desert. I can not seam to find the quote though so I may be remembering it wrong.

 

From the Interview Database:

He made the Aiel look Irish because he thought it was kind of funny. He doesn't like the fact that hardened desert warriors are always described as looking a certain way, so he used the opposite description.

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Authors research things and write things they haven't personally lived all the time. RJ wanted the OP to be addictive and deadly. It's a pretty simple decision to draw on real-world drug addiction as a source of something that's addictive and deadly.

 

The OP actually does help people see and hear better though; it's supernaturally good, not just subjectively rewarding. And it makes people live longer, while addictive drugs tend to really ruin people's health. So I think it's like all RJ's fictional cultures, which are each drawn from so many sources, this is a case where real addictive drugs are only one source of ideas. And it doesn't have to be personal experience; RJ didn't have to personally be Japanese to use ideas from Japanese culture, etc. etc.

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